Archive for the ‘Plants of the Season’ Category

Each spring, I look forward to the first flowers, and my winter aconites have come into bloom right on schedule. I won’t be surprised if there are insects visiting the blossoms next week during the warm days the weather forecasters are promising us. Warm weather also provides a great opportunity for pruning, so I am working on plans as I type this post.

Winter aconites (Ernthis hyemalis).

Flowers are not the only way to brighten up the landscape this time of year, though. As I turned back into the driveway at the end of a walk with my dogs today, my eye went right to the clumps of variegated yuccas along the driveway. They not only add splashes of bold yellow to the otherwise dreary winter landscape, they also produce spikes of white flowers in summer. Couple that with the fact that they are incredibly low maintenance plants–all they ask is full sun and average to dry, well-drained soil–and I can’t fathom why they aren’t more popular. (I know that all-green and blue-green types are pretty common!)

So, I am posting pictures of two of my clumps in the hopes that a few Eastern Shore Gardeners will add a plant or two to their own landscapes. Just be advised that you do have to be a bit patient: It takes a couple of years for pot-grown plants to really get established and produce a good-size clump.

Variegated yucca (Yucca flaccida ‘Variegata’

Variegated yucca (Yucca ‘Color Guard’)


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Like most gardeners this time of year, the majority of my gardening time is spent on my knees. Weeds are making their annual attempt to overtake beds and borders. (Now that I think about it, though, perhaps I should say weeds are continuing their perennial attempt to overtake the place.) Currently, my primary focus is on ridding the garden of bittercress  (Cardamine spp.). The bittercresses are charming, innocent-looking weeds with dainty, four-petaled flowers. Wait too long to pull them, though, and they catapult seeds everywhere for next season’s crop. Thus far, I must have eliminated seeds for at least a million of next spring’s seedlings.


ABOVE: Hypericum calycinum ‘Brigadoon’ with magnolia petals.

But, I didn’t start this post to write about weeds, despite the amount of time I am devoting to them. We have a large saucer magnolia (Magnolia soulangiana) in the backyard that has been lovely this year. I especially appreciate its flowers once they begin to fade. As the blooms break apart, they scatter a deep blanket of white petals blushed with pink all over the hillside behind the house. And while I barely notice their fragrance when they are fresh and still on the tree, once petals  coat every surface, it is simply marvelous. Perhaps the scent is more noticeable because I am spending so much time working on my knees, but whatever the reason, the petals and their fragrance create a memorable combination in the garden.


ABOVE: Epimedium rubrum mulched with magnolia petals.


ABOVE: Tulips with magnolia petals. This is a long-lived clump with leaves edged in yellow. If I can find the label when it is done flowering, I will post the name.

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I’ve been spending a bit of quality time out in the garden this winter—primarily weeding and cutting things back, but also enjoying plants in their winter garb. One benefit of this strange non-winter we are having is that bulbs are already showing their pretty faces. I have winter aconites (Eranthis hyemalis) and common snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) in bloom already, and my hellebores (Helleborus x hybridus) are not far behind.


Above: Winter aconites (Eranthis hyemalis)


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I don’t normally drag my camera out into the garden, but I was weeding a few days ago (click here if you missed my recent thoughts on the importance of this task in winter) and noticed a ground cover that was looking quite pretty. Since handsome ground covers in January are worth taking a second look at, I wanted to share some pictures. This is especially true since the plant I’m highlighting today is growing in partial shade and less-than-ideal soil conditions.


The plant that caught my eye is ‘Brigadoon’ Aaron’s beard (Hypericum calycinum ‘Brigadoon’). I have to say I haven’t particularly noticed its yellow, five-petaled flowers, which appear in late spring, but the golden yellow new growth is certainly eye-catching this January. (Plants are semi-evergreen, so they are primarily valued for late summer to fall foliage value; it seems that the weather this year makes January an extension of fall!) Since my clump isn’t growing in full sun, it’s a mix of yellow foliage mixed with older bronzy green stems.


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While our recent wild weather whipped away lots of leaves and damaged a great many flowers, undaunted trees along our creek are really beginning to color up for fall. Despite the weather, in the garden I still have bubblegum pink blooms covering my fall-blooming Camellia sasanqua, mounds of marginally tattered chrysanthemum ‘Sheffield Pink’, and aster ‘Raydon’s Favorite’ (Symphyotrichum oblongifolius) in bloom. Plus, sprinkled throughout are flowering salvias,  roses, calamint (Calamintha nepeta nepeta), and a lone pale pink balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflorus). I swear next year I need to add some of the fall blooming bulbs to add to the show!



Above: Tupelo and holly on the creek.


Outstanding fall foliage is high on my list when considering trees and shrubs to plant. Tupelos (Nyssa sylvatica) probably top my list here. The one I planted on the bank along the roadside this fall won’t rival the ones growing along the creek during my lifetime, but I’m still happy that it’s there. I’ll get my share of enjoyment from it, and with any luck it will be here for the next person to own this place. I’ve also managed to transplant a couple of oak seedlings that showed outstanding fall color—I think both are black oak hybrids (Quercus velutina). They seem to have established themselves as well. Oh, and then there’s my little, newly planted ‘Ruby Slippers’ oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia). Now there’s some great fall color!



Above: Oakleaf hydrangea ‘Ruby Slippers’ has maintained scarlet foliage since October.


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I swear my garden is just sitting still. With all the chilly weather we’ve been having, plants are just creeping out of the ground, not bursting up with any kind of enthusiasm. Plus, cold, damp, dreary spring weather seems so much more miserable than the bitter temperatures of January and February. Part of the problem is undoubtedly that I’m outside wearing a spring jacket rather than an overcoat.

But enough complaining. A post that features pictures of what is in bloom might help cheer us all up!

My hellebores have been up and flowering since about the second week of March.


ABOVE: Hellebores (Helleborus x hybridus) in shades of pink plus black growing in a holding bed while awaiting a place in the garden.


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Rain and wind have driven the last of the leaves from the deciduous trees in my garden, and a hard frost finally blackened my coleus a couple nights ago. There’s no denying the end of the growing season has finally arrived. Fortunately, a few shrubs still bring colorful foliage to the garden even at this late date.


 ABOVE: Shrubs with colorful fall foliage combined with evergreen lavenders, thymes and other plants fill the late fall garden.


Year round, one of my favorite shrubs is oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia). This dependable native brings glorious fall foliage to the garden every year, and also produces luscious white flowers in summertime. I have to say in Ohio, where I was raised, the flower buds often didn’t survive the winter, so the plants didn’t bloom. We grew it anyway just for for the deep greens of summer and the glorious fall foliage.



ABOVE: Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)


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